SC pulls up Centre on appointment of NGT head

The Supreme Court today pulled up the Centre for its failure in putting on file the present Chief Justice of India's letter relating to the appointment of the chairman of National Green Tribunal, which is functioning without its head for a year.

"You have placed the record but where is the letter of the present CJI? Why you have not placed it when you knew that the matter will be taken at 10.30 am today? It's not acceptable.. the manner in which the things are going. We don't know what is happening?," a bench comprising justices G S Singhvi and S J Mukhopadhaya said.

The bench made the remark after going through the file relating to the appointment placed before it by Additional Solicitor General (ASG) A S Chandhiok. The bench was upset that the matter was "lingering" despite the NGT being "without head" for the last one year.

"We have our own doubts about the manner in which it is being done. We are not sure when the chairman will be appointed," the bench said and reminded the ASG about its previous order of May 3 when the Centre had assured the court that things will be completed.

"It has not happened and it is very unfortunate," the court said. On May 3, the Centre had submitted before the court that six expert and four judicial members would be appointed by October 31, however, the court had directed it to complete the process of appointments of the NGT chairman as well as its expert and judicial members by September 15.

The court today asked the Centre to give an undertaking as to by what time it would come out with the notification on appointment of the chairman and the judicial and expert members for the NGT.

The bench said it would take up the matter on Wednesday and would like the ASG to take instructions also on the issue of making available accommodation to the chairman and the judicial and expert members as per their previous status.

The apex court said if the Centre fails to fulfil the requirements for functioning of the NGT and its benches in other parts of the country, it may give liberty to the high courts for taking up the matter as the working of the tribunal can not be kept in "doldrums."

"We don't want the work and the appointment of the chairman and the tribunal to be in doldrums," the bench said. The ASG said that things will not be in doldrum as the Centre was serious in the matter.

The court also directed the chief secretaries of Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal and Maharashtra to ensure that the NGT benches at Bhopal, Kolkata and Pune be functional without fail by January 31, 2013 and all facilities, including accommodation, be provided to them according to their previous status.

The court was informed by the ASG that the Chennai bench of NGT is already functional. The ASG also informed the court about the composition of principal bench of NGT which is having three judicial and six expert members and said more appointments are likely to be made.

Meanwhile, the court expressed hope that Faridkot House from where the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) is working will be vacated by December end and it will be alloted to the NGT in January 2013 and said that if for any reason the Faridkot House was not handed to the NGT after NHRC vacates it, the matter can be brought before it.

During the hearing, the bench asked several questions from the ASG and also wanted to know as to when the matter on appointment of NGT chairman was placed before the Cabinet Committee on Appointments and what happened between August 14, when the previous CJI had written a letter on appointments, and December 2012.

The court had asked the Centre yesterday to place before it the records and files relating to appointment of NGT chairman on which consultations were also held with the CJI.

Currently Justice A S Naidu is the acting chairman of the NGT which also comprises of two judicial members, Justice M Chockalingam and Justice V R Kingaonkar, along with six expert members.

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